April 9, 2012

PARIS, France — Ugh, I was just pickpocketed! Want to hear even more distressing information? On the Air France flight from New York to Paris, I managed to lose my iPhone, driver’s license, American Express card and my socks.

I’ve decided to include all the bad news in one post because my daughter Gabi says breaking up the presentation into multiple posts will make you think that I’m truly an idiot. Meanwhile Judy, my best friend since the 7th grade and Gabi’s godmother, just poured me another glass of merlot so that I can get through writing about my latest um, life lessons…

So this afternoon, we were in a Metro station, heading back to our rental apartment. Gabi and Judy were already through the turnstile. I was last, fumbling with my wallet. Suddenly a tall, young white French guy tried to crowd through with me without paying his own fare, like he’s going for a free ride. (No, he wasn’t after a free feel, which makes this even more humiliating because his lack of interest in groping me makes it official: I’m an old lady.)

“You have to push,” the pickpocket said as he pointed to the little flapping doors in front of the turnstile. As I tried to get away from him, my wallet — and this unwelcome stranger — were both suddenly gone.

The bastard got 100 Euros (worth about $130 U.S.) and some Metro tickets. Thankfully, after losing my credit card and license on the plane, there was no ID in the wallet (my important stuff was hidden deep inside my backpack). When Judy and Gabi realized what had happened, my friend was sad and my daughter was thirsting for vigilante justice.

Since I wouldn’t let Gabs chase the guy down, she came back to the apartment, opened her laptop and poured the rage of  her 17-year-old self into Googling — until she found a batch of Internet stories about Asians getting pickpocketed.

That made me curious and I did a little web surfing too. Google “Asians are an easy target,” and you’ll get 12.9 million hits. Google “Asians carry cash” for 63.8 million results. By comparison, dangers of single women traveling alone turns up about 3.9 million posts and pickpocketed in Paris yields only 208,000 links  (including the top few posts, which were filled with tips; I was a victim of the “distraction” tactic).

To be fair, losing my iPhone, socks, driver’s license and credit card had nothing to do with being Asian, single or woman. I was just stressed out and acting more ditzy than usual.  The Metro incident? That was me not paying attention to my surroundings. Being Asian might have been a factor though…if you were a pickpocket and one of your potential targets was an Asian tourist surrounded by non-Asians, who would you choose? (Note on 4/11/12: check out this comment from a reader below. I may have to rethink this Asian victim angle a bit.)

<Sigh.> Here’s what I’ve learned:

Lesson #1: It’s important to get enough sleep. When I’m tired, I get sloppy.

Lesson #2: There’s safety in numbers. I was vulnerable because I was separated — for an instant — from Judy and Gabi.

Lesson #3: Find a place for everything and put everything in its place. During the flight, I should’ve made sure all my belongings were properly stowed in my backpack. In the Metro, I shouldn’t have had my wallet out as I went through the turnstile. It should have been zipped and tucked away in my bag.

Well, that’s the update.  Thank God nothing really terrible happened. All I lost was some money and my pride. Live, learn, keep moving!

And to read more about our Paris vacation: